Home > Uncategorized > The Twitter Non-Scandal and the Whiff of Old Media Decay #vicvotes

The Twitter Non-Scandal and the Whiff of Old Media Decay #vicvotes

November 20, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

“Revelations” about the use of anonymous Twitter accounts by campaign volunteers in the Victorian state election who may or may not also be staffers actually reveals something far more interesting.  .

Every journalist expressing concern over this very timid storm in a very small tea cup should answer this question:

How exactly is an anonymous Twitter account different from an unnamed “source” upon which all political journalists depend?

Like sources as used here.

Or here.

Or here.

And here.

Anonymous campaign and political sources are the lifeblood of political journalism.  The ability to attract them is a key performance indicator for a reporter aiming to build a reputation.  Who wouldn’t, therefore, seek out unnamed and anonymous tipsters if they seek glory in journalism? Bob Woodward would.

It goes almost without saying that the same reporters that are insisting on full disclosure on Twitter rely regularly on tip-offs from anonymous sources or unauthorised disclosures.  Just like that which led to the Twitter story in the first instance.  There is nothing wrong this.  It is the way, as they say, things roll.

There is, of course, a critical difference between anonymous sources in the old media and anonymous voices in the new media.

Anonymous campaign voices on Twitter are not required to filter through the traditional media.  Tweeters just don’t need journalists.  Twitter, and other social media, allow people to communicate in direct, immediate and intimate ways without the intervention of paid reporters and moody sub-editors.

The Twittersphere is an unregulated, unedited, gloriously unpredictable space.  From Melbourne to DC, from Tehran to Latvia, politicians and political parties have jumped in with predictable and perfectly justified enthusiasm.  And fun police, be warned:  the notion of fake versus real has no meaning there.  There is no editorial committee or code of conduct.  The impulse to constrain or restrict Twitter is anathema to its essential appeal.  .

Judging by the number of them who maintain profiles there and compete for followers , few professions adore Twitter more than journalists themselves.

But journalists can’t control it, any more than political parties or “anonymous” or “fake” or “paid” campaign activists can.  Everyone gets to play — randomly, chaotically — but they can’t referee, let alone set the rules.

Concern about the use of Twitter by campaign organisations is really a window into a much bigger story: the inexorable decline in the filtering power of traditional media.


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